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The Finest AMX Ever Built

Can we all agree that AMC’s AMX was Kenosha’s finest? These short-wheelbase smokers were one of AMC’s proudest moments—if not the proudest. Introduced at the height of the muscle-car era in 1968 and only available in this configuration for three years, they were a higher level of AMC nirvana than the similarly styled Javelin. For Kamloops, British Columbia’s Kevin Mervin, it must be heaven, as he’s owned this X for 31 years. Purchased for $600 (less engine and seats) it was an original 390, four-speed, posi rear 1968 in relatively good condition.

Kevin was 17 and wasn’t about to let originality get in the way of having some X-games, so he scored an AMC 290 (the smaller version of the 390) in a boneyard and hooked it up. Says Kevin, “We had great fun with it. It would sit on a dime and do donuts all night long.” With mufflers hooked up directly to the tube headers, Kevin says, “It was loud and obnoxious, and I loved it.”  

After using it for six years as a daily driver, he eventually parked it after the typical priorities got in the way: job (which is commercial drywall), marriage, then kids, with the car following along from garage to garage, collecting dust and rust and little else.

About eight years ago, Kevin got the urge to really do his X proud by going completely through it to make it contemporary, fast, and comfortable. He decided to ditch the unibody for a full Art Morrison Air Ride chassis with sway bars front and rear, rack-and-pinion steering, and a Strange 9-inch rear with 4:11 gears. That’s all good, but it necessitated cutting out the original floor and then creating a new floor and wheelwells around the frame. In all, the car sits more than 8 inches lower than a stock AMX.

To speed things up Kevin sent the X to a couple of shops in and around British Columbia to try and energize the build. It took more than eight years to complete the X, as time and money allowed, but things picked up once he found Rod’s Rods and Restos in Abbotsford, B.C. Rod’s undid the bad work of the previous shops and got the project back on track.

 

K&S Machine in Kelowna, B.C., built a killer 427 LSX with a 4.175-inch bore and 4.000-inch stroke (for 438 ci), Scat rods and crank, and JE dished pistons. Scorpion rockers and a C&M hydraulic-roller cam with 0.605-inch lift activate the 2.165-inch intake and 1.6-inch exhaust valves in the Trick Flow heads. The K&S Machine intake holds the MSD sequentially fired injectors running a Wilson Manifolds throttle-body in conjunction with an MSD MAP sensor and Electromotive controller, and those huge 65 mm Turbonetic turbos with STS wastegates. Asks Kevin, “It’s the best and fastest power-making motor on the market, right?” The answer to that is a soft dyno pull of 1,016 hp at 6,700 rpm and 796 lb-ft torque at 13 psi of boost. Kevin says there’s more there but feels the paddle-shift TCI 6X six-speed automatic has enough to handle at the current horsepower level.

The body was left fairly stock, and why not? Kevin still loves the look of the AMX after all of these decades, finding he needed to see only a minimum of changes that include a 1970 AMX front clip and an enlarged opening in the bumper, which is tucked in to the body (as is the rear bumper). Door handles and emblems have been shaved, and the quarter-panel wrap in the taillights has been eliminated and filled in. The front and rear fender caps have been bonded to the fenders and blended in. The window openings have been reworked to flush the glass to the body and eliminate the trim, and the drip rails have been removed. Fix Auto in Abbotsford did the bodywork and paint, mixing two shades of Barrett-Jackson greens. JRD Glass in Ontario, California, made all-new glass, which is now available for all AMXs.

Inside is a full cage that hugs the body nicely, fabbed by RH Racecars in Kelowna, B.C. Kevin McMillan at McMillan Speed and Fabrication in Oxnard, California, did the exceptional wiring that includes an Isis power-system controller running everything off of an iPad or iPhone, including the heated seats, Vintage Air air conditioning, and an audio system installed by Arc Audio in Modesto, California.

Now here’s the killer: Once the X was finished, there was already snow on the ground. Though Kevin wants to drive the hell out of it, he’s been limited to a few miles until the weather clears up (hopefully, right about the time you read this). The few miles he’s driven it he notes it’s solid, quiet, handles and rides well, and runs like stink. He can hardly wait to stand on it, and we can hardly wait for an update once he’s got a couple thousand miles on his eight-year project.

 

What's The Best Way to Survive a collision? Prevent one from occurring.